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Pronunciation: brɛθs

Breaths in the context of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) refer to the act of giving rescue breaths to an individual who is not breathing or breathing abnormally, with the aim of oxygenating their blood and supporting life until further medical interventions can be applied.

What are Breaths?

During CPR, after delivering a series of chest compressions, rescue breaths are given to supply oxygen to the lungs. This ensures that oxygenated blood can be circulated to vital organs, including the brain, during cardiac arrest.

Key Facts About Breaths:

  • In traditional CPR for adults, the ratio of compressions to breaths is 30:2.
  • Each breath should last about 1 second and make the chest visibly rise.
  • Before giving breaths, it’s essential to ensure that the airway is open.
  • When available, a barrier device or mask should be used to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Breaths | Symptoms & Causes

When are Breaths necessary?

Rescue breaths are given when:

  • An individual is unresponsive and not breathing or only gasping.
  • After every 30 compressions during CPR.
  • A child or infant is found with a pulse but isn’t breathing normally.

What leads to the need for Breaths?

Situations that might necessitate rescue breaths include:

  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Drowning.
  • Choking.
  • Severe allergic reactions.
  • Respiratory failure.

Breaths | Diagnosis & Treatments

How are the need and effectiveness of Breaths determined?

  1. Assess responsiveness and check if the person is breathing or only gasping.
  2. If the individual is not breathing or only gasping, open the airway using the head-tilt, chin-lift method.
  3. Look for the chest’s rise and fall and listen for breath sounds.
  4. If trained and comfortable, combine rescue breaths with compressions during CPR.

How are Breaths given?

  1. After ensuring the airway is open, pinch the nose shut.
  2. Take a normal breath and cover the person’s mouth with yours, creating an airtight seal.
  3. Give 2 breaths, each lasting about 1 second, ensuring the chest rises with each breath.
  4. If the chest doesn’t rise, reposition the head and try again.


  1. American Heart Association. (2020). CPR Steps: Learn How to Save a Life. Retrieved from
  2. Red Cross. (2021). Rescue Breathing and CRP. Retrieved from
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): First aid. Retrieved from